White House says Turkey's retaliatory sanctions 'regrettable'

White House says Turkey's retaliatory sanctions 'regrettable'
The US press secretary defends Washington's initial sanctions against Turkey, saying they were 'out of national security interest'.
2 min read
16 August, 2018
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders during a June briefing [Getty]
The White House said on Wednesday that Turkey's retaliatory sanctions were "regrettable", calling again on Ankara to release detained American pastor Andrew Brunson.

"The tariffs from Turkey are certainly regrettable and a step in the wrong direction," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, while stopping short of announcing new measures against Ankara.

The White House defended a slew of tariffs and sanctions that have substantially weakened Turkey's currency and forced regulators to take steps to curb financial flows out of the country.

"The tariffs that the United States placed on Turkey were out of national security interests. Theirs are out of retaliation," said Sanders.

She added that even if pastor Andrew Brunson was released, tariffs would remain in place on steel.

Sanders lamented that Turkey had treated Brunson, "who we know to be a very good person and a strong Christian who has done nothing wrong, very unfairly, very badly".

When asked about the impact of the US spat with Turkey on the country's currency, the spokeswoman said Washington was "monitoring the situation".

But she added: "Turkey's economic problems - those are a part of a long-term trend, something of its own making and not the result of any actions the United States has taken".

Turkey's lira has dropped to record lows in recent weeks, having fallen some 42 percent so far this year. 

The currency strengthened to around 6.20 lira against the dollar on Wednesday after the government took steps to shore up the currency by reducing the daily limit in bank foreign currency swap transactions.

Investors are worried not only about Turkey's souring relations with the US, a longtime NATO ally, but also Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's economic policies and the country's high debt accumulated in foreign currencies.

Turkey has accused the United States of waging an "economic war" as part of a plot to harm the country.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Turkey's Foreign Minister said Ankara is ready to discuss its diplomatic spat with Washington as long as there are no threats. 

Agencies contributed to this report

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